Shea Patterson talks about the decision to come to Michigan and his desire to play for a national championship. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Paris – Shea Patterson was preparing for the trip to Paris with his new Michigan teammates and coaches when he got a call Thursday morning from the school’s compliance department.
He sat in a room with his father, Sean, and Michigan director of player personnel director Sean Magee. His attorney, Tom Mars, joined in by phone. That’s when Patterson found out he was cleared by the NCAA to be immediately eligible to play for Michigan this fall, and Patterson said things got “a little emotional.”
“It’s hard to describe what I’m feeling right now,” Patterson said Saturday during a break in Michigan’s coaching clinic with the Federation Francaise de Football Americain. “It’s been a long time coming. I’m just thankful it’s over with and we get to move forward and focus on playing football.”
Mars phoned Patterson as he walked into the football building and previewed the news he was about to learn officially from Michigan compliance.
After what he described as a challenging endeavor, Mars said the best part of this process was telling Patterson he would be able to play this fall.
“The best part of it was saved for last,” Mars said. “Calling Shea to give him the good news (Thursday), and to hear his reaction, was one of the most personally rewarding experiences I’ve had in the more than 30 years I’ve been a lawyer."
Patterson, who transferred to Michigan from Ole Miss last December, practiced this spring with the Wolverines and will compete in the fall for the starting job with Brandon Peters, Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh clearly is pleased with the decision. He said he never grew frustrated with the length of time it took to get Patterson eligible because he felt time was on their side.
“Very happy for Shea,” Harbaugh said. “Didn’t know, didn’t know (what to expect). But very happy. Figured it would. Figured that was the right thing. (But the NCAA) doesn't always … sometimes doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. Definitely thought it would work out this way.”
The NCAA, Michigan and Ole Miss made it official in a joint statement Friday.
As the new quarterback on campus, and with this decision hanging over him, Patterson often encountered fellow students who had one thing on their minds regarding him.
“It’s not usually, ‘Hey Shea, how are you doing?’ Or, ‘Nice to meet you,’” he said Saturday. “It’s usually, ‘Are you going to be able to play? Are you eligible?' It’s nice that it’s over with.”
Michigan QB Shea Patterson talks about the process involved in being ruled eligible to play in 2018. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Patterson said he was able to maintain his focus on football and getting acclimated to his new school because of the people in his inner circle. But he admits there were times he wasn’t always able to maintain a positive outlook.
“Yeah, there was always moments of doubt,” said Patterson, who made starts the last two seasons at Ole Miss, which is now under NCAA probation for three years and has one year left of a two-year bowl ban. “I had good faith because I had a great support staff. I tried not to tie that into the physical and mental aspect of it. I still got what I needed to get done day in and day out in the classroom, in school and watching film, and preparing and learning this new offense and taking control of what I had to do on the field – and that was compete every day. It was very fun competing this spring.
“Football has always been a huge part of my life and it’s something I love doing. I wake up and I can’t wait to get on that field. Just the thought of having to sit out a year without football, obviously, I would have a whole year to develop and get better, but at the same time, a whole year without football, I don’t know how well that would sit with me. I think the best thing I did was control what I controlled and that was keep getting better every day whether I could play or not. It was what it was going to be. Luckily, God answered my prayers.”
Harbaugh said his new quarterback never seemed frazzled during this process, and he never lost focus.
“I didn’t see it weighing on him or anything,” Harbaugh said. “I think he was handling his own business and handling things he could control, as we all were.”
It is never easy being the new guy transferring into a program, but Patterson said he already has a long resume of similar transitions on which to fall back. He has the tools to adjust to new surroundings and teammates.
“That’s something I’ve been dealing with ever since I was in middle school and high school,” Patterson said. “I went to three different high schools, transitioned to IMG the first part of my senior year and then went to Ole Miss. I feel like being able to adapt is one of my qualities. I can pretty much get along with everybody, but the guys did a real good job of taking me in and making me feel comfortable.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says Shea Patterson is "really talented when it comes to throwing the ball." Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Patterson grew up in Toledo, so he has known all about Michigan.
He was asked why he ultimately decided to transfer to play for the Wolverines once he exited Ole Miss.
“I would have stayed at Ole Miss if it wasn’t for the situation we were in,” Patterson said of the probation. “I don’t think I could have went my whole college career with … I can live with throwing an interception in the national championship game. … It might be hard to live with that but I don’t know if I could have lived with not even being able to get a chance to compete for one. Watching Michigan all last year, and with the guys we’ve got coming back on defense, I feel like we’ve got a really good shot at doing that.”
He felt like he performed well this spring and feels as comfortable with the offense as possible, although 15 spring practices are not enough. Playing against Michigan’s top-rated defense, he said, also has been a plus.
The biggest challenge has been learning new terminology.
“I’m right where I want to be and I’ll be ready to go,” Patterson said.
Jim Harbaugh doesn't want to see "free agency in college football." He admitted to thinking about transferring while he was a player at Michigan. Angelique S. Chengelis, Detroit News
Harbaugh saw immediate improvements in Patterson’s handling of the Michigan offense.
“Had a really good spring,” Harbaugh said of Patterson. “He really did. Getting more and more comfortable with the verbiage of the offense and running our system, which he’s really good at. He fits in right there in the mix. Did a great job. There’s more to be done in the offseason and in training camp, but I’d say he’s right on track.”
Patterson is known as a quarterback who can extend plays.
“He’s got a lot of special qualities,” Harbaugh said. “There’s plenty of attributes he has in the arm talent department. I mean, he is really talented when it comes to throwing the ball. He’s really good and elusive and has a really good feel for the game.
“Had a really good spring. Really getting to learn the system. It’s like learning a different language being a quarterback in one system to another. Picking it up real sharp. He’s a quick-minded guy. All positive.”
Patterson has adjusted to his new life in Ann Arbor.
“I didn’t like the cold at first, but I like the tradition that’s there,” he said, smiling. “The people are real nice and genuine. It’s a place where I feel comfortable.”
In a few months he will run out of the Michigan Stadium tunnel wearing a Michigan uniform and winged helmet and his looking forward to that moment.
“I’ve dreamt of that since I was a little kid,” he said. “That will be a day that I will remember forever.”